It’s not often that the biggest fault with a Big Finish play is that it’s not long enough. Quite often, you just sit there, watching the tumbleweed go by and glaciers nip past you as you wait for the play to come to its inevitable conclusion.
But for the first time in quite a while, I came to the end of a play and found myself wishing that they’d spent a whole lot more time on it. I’m not saying that it was brilliant, it’s just when you have a character who has the potential to be one of the most interesting Doctor Who villains around, an hour doesn’t seem like quite enough to explore the character properly, does it?
The richest man in the galaxy has just bought a backwards planet with no obvious mineral wealth in the outer reaches of the universe. An obscure mystical sect has been revived after centuries of neglect. A new race of aliens are hunting for prey. Why?
As the Doctor and Lucie attempt to discover the answer, it becomes clear that someone is attempting to resurrect the past – and they need a Time Lord to help them achieve it.
Is it any good?
On the whole, it’s not bad. Of all the Big Finish writers, Nick Briggs is the one who can best write Lucie and the Eighth Doctor, so they are at least entertaining together.
But after the build-up from Sisters of The Flame, The Vengeance of Morbius lands with a damp splat.
Given the name of the play and its cover, it should be no surprise that the former inhabitant of a bowl with eyes makes his return as a fully fledged evil Time Lord genius. Although Sam West (son of Timothy West and Prunella Scales; and former Doctor Who Appreciation Society member) does a good enough job with the little material he’s provided with, the 35 minutes or so that he’s actually around for isn’t quite enough to make you think “Bloody hell. He’s a bit scary. This is a real menace.”
Littered with more continuity that the average Whovian’s bedroom floor, the play isn’t non-fan friendly in the slightest and pretty much relies on a mental card index in the listener’s mind of every single Doctor Who story, both on television and in the Eighth Doctor/Lucie Miller range, to cover up for the fact they can’t fit enough plot explanation and information into the play’s allotted span.
Alexander Siddig, who was one of the highlights of Sisters of the Flame, gets about three lines this time, thanks to the compacting of plot, making his development and inclusion in The Vengeance of Morbius pretty worthless as a result. Which is a shame, really.
But for all that, it’s not bad at all. Sheridan Smith and Paul McGann have put there all into this one and navigate the continuity minefields with good grace. It romps along at a good pace and Morbius is at least slightly threatening.
Plus we end on a cliffhanger. I won’t spoil it for you, but there’s the return of an old character and at least one possible death of a regular. Will there be a third season? Will the time lines be crossed to save the day?
We’ll just have to wait to see.
Overall, this second season of Eighth Doctor and Lucie plays has been slightly disappointing compared to the first season. Without the story arc that kept them together in the first season, the plays have been somewhat ordinary, lingering in the average to awful range of the spectrum. However, the last three plays were considerably better in quality, as was Brave New Town, so it’s not been an absolute waste of money.
A good way to end it all – fingers crossed things will be smoother if there’s a third season. Or that the Eighth Doctor ends up reunited with Charley somehow.
Paul McGann (The Doctor)
Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller)
Samuel West (Revenant)
Kenneth Colley (Zarodnix)
Alexander Siddig (Rosto)
Nickolas Grace (Straxus)
Barry McCarthy (Bulek)
Nicola Weeks (Haspira)
Katrina Olsson (Orthena)
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs